I've never played a role playing game -- I've got to say that right out front. That's because, when I was a kid, there was This Huge Thing about D&D, the most popular role-playing game in town, and it was bandied about by some to be satanic and whatnot. That was enough for the kids who played it to get a Reputation, and everyone else to either try to get in on the action (that was five minutes when D&D was judged super-cool), or if they were a little more timid, to steer away. Ditto, Magic, the Gathering. So, no RPG's for me - however, I've since done a lot of observing, hanging-over-shoulders, and lusting after the fourteen-sided-die of the hipster gamers and their tabletop madness. And, also watching, you know, the awesomely Wheaton-filled Tabletop. And feeling really bad that I never got to jump around and scream and play Settlers of Catalan or anything. Some childhood deprivations must be rectified!!!
So, I thought I'd start out by watching a movie.
I know. Makes perfect sense, no?
(No? Well, ...no. It doesn't. I know that. We don't review movies routinely @ Wonderland, but stick with me here - we'll get to the book in the end.)
An indie from Iceland which debuted in 2007, Astrópía (the American version is called Dorks & Damsels. Ignore that. I like the Icelandic name better.) features Hildur, an early twentysomething who is imaginative and beautiful but also fluffy-headed and unsure of herself, though basically kind. Her only task in life thus far has been to look nice, and do PR for her boyfriend Jolli's car dealership. She's not required to do anything but show up and show off - and she's not really even comfortable with that, but she does what Jolli says, and remains one of the best dressed, hottest girls in town.
Her life is all about the surface, but when the surface cracks - and it turns out Jolli is a shyster and going to jail - Hildur falls through the veneer and into a reality where friends don't stick around if there's no money and no gossip to be shared, she's expected to clean up her messes and work for a living and be a good example to a child. It's a rough transition, from someone used to being photographed next to her boyfriend or at clubs to be homeless, jobless, and completely unsteady on her five-inch-heels. What's a girl to do? Get a job, yes. But, at a comic book store? Selling RPG hardware to hardcore fans?
In a word, yes. And what follows is the funniest, sweetest, dorkiest and most ridiculous love letter to gamers, ever. No, seriously. Granted, I watched this movie on a flight (incidentally from Iceland) and I was jet-lagged and travel-stoned, but it was the best thing on earth to distract me for a lovely couple of hours. Despite some of Hildur's more ridiculous outfits and a little comic-book style violence - a lot of roaring, and running around with swords - it's family friendly, and good for a Saturday night with kettlecorn and corn dogs.
Now, what, you may ask, does that have to do with a book?
Well, it's not just ANY book. It's THE OTHER NORMALS, by Ned Vizzini, and it's out this fall... and since I've talked so much about the movie, I've run out of space to talk about the book - but stayed tuned for my review next week. For now, please just admire this lovely cover! Yep, RPG figurines, a gameboard, and a completely adorkable guy. More on this later...meanwhile, please enjoy the movie Astrópía!